summarized by Bobbi Campbell
Sixteen people met to discuss chapters 9, 11, 12, and 13. This time the chair assigned members to discuss the chapters briefly before we discussed them. The group liked this arrangement, and we will do the same next time – when Finley Campbell will lead the discussion of Chapter 13 (which we didn’t get to on the 7th), Alan Lang will lead the discussion on Chapter 14, and Bill Bassin will lead Chapter 15.
Our next meeting is May 5. We will start at 1:00, not 11:45, in Chris Moore Parlor. In addition to discussing chapters 13, 14, and 15, we will be discussing what book to read next. Some of the suggestions that have been made:
James Luther Adams – on fascism
Daniel Immerwahr – “How to Hide an Empire”
“Putin: Ruler of Russia”???did you mean “Putin’s World: Russia against the West and with the Rest”?
Nancy MacLean – “Democracy in chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America”
Dennis Koehn led the discussion on Chapter 9 – A Difficult Art. His notes are attached to this report. Other comments:
- The collapse of the humanist tradition of education was a deliberate destruction and policy change that resulted in a loss of the capacity to think critically and participate in the world at large
- The preference for authoritarianism demonstrates that loss. And teachers now teach toward standardized tests.
- Young people should receive job training and learn trades in school. They should also have continuing education available throughout their lives.
- Corporation have become more involved in schools and targeting job training, but people need to be able to think. Corporations don’t want people who think critically. We should demand real education.
- Not everyone agreed that corporations don’t want critical thinkers.
- Dennis’ concluding statement – the 35 and younger population is producing some very sharp critical thinkers in spite of these issues.
Elvira Pelliteri led the discussion on Chapter 11 – Erdoğan the Magnificent.
- Elvira’s summary
- A brief history – Attaturk abolished religion and secularized and Europeanized Turkey, including establishing equal rights for women. During her 2000 trip, Turkey seemed democratic and forward looking. In the 1970’s a chaotic situation developed (which is what typically opens the way for fascist governments – especially economic crises). Erdoğan took over as a conservative.
- In 2003 Erdoğan becomes prime minister under a different president, who was more secular. During this term Erdoğan focused on the economy and improved Turkey’s financial situation.
- In 2014 Erdoğan is elected president. He abolishes the position of prime minister. In 2013 popular demonstrations took place resulting in the deaths of some. Erdoğan blamed Gűlen for this, although by this time Gűlen had left the country. Erdoğan revised the term limits, allowing himself to remain in office until 2029.
- Other comments
- The results of the April 1 election are still being disputed
- Erdoğan won rural support
- He defends his policies by invoking the threat of terrorism
- Erdoğan sounds like Trump, using the threat of invaders
- The entrance to the EU has been difficult for Turkey, with the country having the image of authoritarian tendencies
- Policies toward the Kurds are racist with the Kurdish party being outlawed and declared terrorist. The Kurds are natives of the country. They are being scapegoated.
- Erdoğan began as theoretically democratic, avoiding questions that would cause him to take a stand. But he is being tested on the world theater, where Islam meets the rest of the world.
- Turkey’s recent deal with the Russian defense industry is in opposition to the US.
Ellen LaRue summarized Chapter 12: The Man from the KGB
- Ellen’s comments
- Family background
- Albright is concerned about Putin becoming the role model for other apparent plutocrats
- Albright’s comments about the sources of Putin’s power
- He doesn’t need to be a full-blown fascist
- Many government executives are also e-KGB
- He makes his subjects think he is invincible. If others step out of line, they go to jail or die
- Once communism failed, people gave their lives to nationalism
- Putin is creating a new national guard
- He is very “hands-on”
- The Russians have hacked and influenced elections in many countries
- His pioneering ability with social media reflects his history in the KGB
- Russian motives (p. 164) are about power more so than ideology
- Discredit democracy
- Divide Europe
- Weaken the transatlantic partnership
- Punish governments that dare stand up to Moscow
- Rivals ask “how can we defend ourselves against this?” and “How can we develop the same capability?” injecting something of a dose of hysteria
- Putin makes people think only he can solve Russia’s problems. His favor in Russia is weakening, but he is still secure.
- Albright shares anecdotes about meeting Putin and describes him as self-controlled
- Other comments
- Putin was trained in the KGB, whose slogan is “sword and shield of the revolution.” They sent people to different countries to integrate themselves into the country.
- Putin has revived the old Russian Orthodox church, which views Russia as the third Rome.
- China is their main natural enemy
- Albright’s bias is especially apparent in this chapter.
- With respect to Albright, we need to remember that she represents the more liberal stream of American policy makes. Bush and Reagan were the more reactionary sector. She strives for the more liberal view while defending the American policy .
- A lot of this chapter is obfuscation – blaming Russia for things the US is responsible for.
- The US hacks way more elections than Russia has
- Russia is ostensibly democratic, capitalistic. They sought NATO membership and were refused
- TPP is NAFTA on steroids
- The Ukraine was part of the USSR until 1953
Fascism: A Warning, by Madeleine Albright
Chapter Nine: A Difficult Art
Dennis R. Koehn, MDiv, PhD
April 7, 2019
- Not all parts of democracy are excellent, but “democracy can almost always be repaired.” (109)
- Albright was chair of the National Democratic Institute, which sought to strengthen democracies around the globe.
- “In a true democracy, leaders respect the will of the majority but also the rights of the minority” . . . There are “constitutional protections” for minorities (110)
- Hitler sought dramatic change in Germany: “The Constitution only maps out the arena of the battle, not the goal . . . once we possess constitutional power, we will mold the state into the shape we hold to be suitable.” (110-111)
- Disruptive global realities: “more than a third of the workforce lacks a full-time job” . . . In the US “Wages, in real terms, have been stagnant since the 1970s.” (111)
- Many countries have populations coming of age that are anxious to start careers but have no realistic chance to do so . . . In many countries, the climate is reminiscent of that which, a hundred years ago, gave birth to Italian and German Fascism” (111-112)
- Investors earn profits on new technologies, but at the same time “This unequal contest between our inventions and our workforce has depressed salaries and robbed millions of the dignity that comes from regular employment – and along with it the precious sense of being useful and optimism about what lies ahead.” (112)
- A democracy index charts respect for due process, religious liberty, and the space given to civil society. In 2017 seventy countries declined in this index and the US was rated as a “flawed democracy,” not a “full” one.
- Americans’ loss in confidence in their institutions was probably a major factor in the election of Donald Trump as president.
- In 1960 70% of Americans had high faith in their government; by 2016 this had dropped to 20%. (113)
- Globally, “On average, one person in four thinks well of a system in which a strong ruler can govern without interference from a parliament or the courts. One in five is attracted to the concept of military rule.” (113)
- During the Revolutionary War, Benjamin Franklin “used his printing press to circulate stories he had made up about British atrocities.” Today it is easy for anyone to circulate invented stories.
- Albright claims that “Globalization, is not an ideological choice but a fact of life.” (Is this neo-liberal propaganda?)
- Albright seems to blame individuals rather than economic structures for tensions today: “Our attention spans are shorter today, our expectations higher, and we are less likely to overlook flaws that have become ever easier to detect . . . We complain bitterly when we do not get all we want . . . We crave all the benefits of change without the costs.” (116)
- “In my view, no country has the right to dictate to others how they should be governed; but we all have good reason to speak up on behalf of democratic values.” (117)
- “When a free society falters, we still have the ability – through open debate and the selection of new leaders – to remedy those shortcomings . . . That is democracy’s comparative advantage.” (117)
- Democracy involves ‘belief in human beings, in humanity . . . democracy is a discussion,” which is possible “only if people trust each other.” (118)
- Fascisms early stirrings include: “discrediting of mainstream politicians, the emergence of leaders who seek to divide rather than unite, the pursuit of political victory at all costs, and the invocation of national greatness.” (118)